Poetry: Racing to Our Futures

It’s back

The racing

The running

The stumbling

The can I do this

The will I make it

The one more mile

Counting down the days

Until a break

 

Ah.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Calm?

Good…because

Ready

Set

Go

Again

 

Faster now

More obstacles to dodge

(Will you make it?)

How fast are your reflexes?

How strong are your muscles?

Can you do this?

Push yourself harder

Less sleep

More running

I. Can. Do. This.

(Where am I even going?)

 

All the while

Screamed at by sideline coaches

And jeered at by crowds

Telling you Run Faster

Dig Deeper

(Don’t they see there’s nothing left?)

 

And runners sprint past you

While others collapse

Suddenly still in a flood of movement

The winners and the losers

In front and behind

 

And there’s nothing left to do

But keep running

Because this is a race

Even if you didn’t know that

When you started

Flash Fiction: Forest of Monsters

Hey everyone! This piece of Flash Fiction was inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge for this week, in which we were supposed to choose a random  Flickr photo to serve as inspiration for a story. I chose a picture of redwoods.

The characters and set-up are related to another Flash Fiction story I wrote a few months ago. This story takes place before the other one, and you really don’t have to have read the other one for this one to make sense. I’m just having fun developing different snapshots of these characters and their world.

Hope you enjoy!


 

Anyone who has tried to tell you that the forest floor is made soft by the layers of moss and decomposing leaves is a liar.

Or maybe they just never had the enlightening experience of being thrown into the ground by a guy twice their size.

We shouldn’t judge people for their ignorance. Trevor always says that.

Trevor also talks about monsters no one else can see. We’ve all had practice not judging.

For a second, I stare up at the forest above me, letting the details of the fight drift away. The forest is sways gently above me, detached from my pain, beautiful, almost…magical. An arboreal siren.

I blink and the illusion is gone, leaving only a weary tightness in my gut.

Groaning, I ask, “Was that really necessary?”

Jack’s mouth twitches in a cocky smile. “I always forget what a lightweight you are.”

I make a halfhearted attempt to bruise his shins. “You? Forget I’m bad at fighting? How could you, when it’s all you ever talk to me about?”

He pulls me to my feet. “No, I mean, you are literally a light weight. I usually need that much force to down the other guys out here—with you, I guess it was kind of superfluous.”

The other guys. I’m still chewing on those words when he asks, “Ready to head back?”

I shake my head. “Trevor’s gonna kill me if I don’t start clocking more hours out here.”

And it doesn’t hurt that Jack is head of combat training for Society members under eighteen. Jack, whose smile makes my stomach execute gymnastics my muscles can barely dream of. Jack, who had the body—and attitude—of a superhero. Jack who uses words like superfluous.

Jack, who I’d been nursing a stupid, pointless, ridiculous crush on for two years now.

Jack, who thinks of me as one of the guys.

I do hang out with a lot of guys, but it’s not like I have a choice. I’m one of the only girls Trevor allowed to join the Society. (I’ve pointed out the sexism, believe me.) But my dad was Trevor’s best friend since high school, and when Trevor asked him to sell his house and move to the middle of freaking nowhere so the two of them could hunt monsters, my dad said yes, as long as his daughter could come.

If it sounds like we’re a cult, we probably are. I’ve been here for three years and I can’t shake the feeling that we’re the kind of people the rest of the world laughs at.

I’d laugh too, if I couldn’t see the bodies.

“Are we going to fight or what?” I ask.

His foot flies at my head. I duck, years of training inelegantly shoving me out of the way. Before I can catch my balance, I throw myself the other direction, a desperate attempt to get out of the way of his fist.

I make it, but not with my dignity.

God, I’m bad at this.

Stay focused. Let your senses take over. Pay attention. Anticipate. Take charge, don’t just react.

Three teacher’s worth of advice floods through my mind. Dad, Trevor, and Jack have all tried.

None of it matters. My body doesn’t do this.

I try for a kick of my own, but it misses by a comical degree. Jack is already twirling toward me, throwing a fist into my jaw. I block it and try to return the favor, but he playfully backpedals, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “That all you got?”

If I were a character in a book, this would be the moment I get angry. My anger would crystallize the world around me; I’d suddenly know where Jack’s kicks and punches were going before did. For once, Jack would be the one on the ground, gasping for air.

Instead, I just feel tired. I want back to the libraries and the labs, where I don’t fall on my face, where I can actually hold my own. A horrible, secret part of me wants back to the real world, where monsters are just something children talk about.

Jack’s coming at me again, but I don’t do more than dodge. The sorry answer to his question is yes, this might be all I’ve got. I’m just not the guerilla fighter that I was supposed to become.

For a while, I trained because I believed the picture Dad painted: Becca 2.0. Becca: Badass Edition.

Now I train out of a mild sense of duty to my father’s memory and to keep Trevor off my case.

Boom.

Jack’s foot catches my shoulder and I fly backwards, my elbows slamming into discarded bark, my tailbone crashing into the packed earth.

Hands on his thighs, Jack leans over me, breathing heavy. “You weren’t even trying that time.”

“I was distracted,” I say, waving him out of my eye line. I like the forest more than I like him right now.

“Yeah, by what?” Jack asks, but I barely hear him. The forest calls me, dancing around my consciousness.

Something flickers at the edge of my vision, blackness and sparkles in one. My gut heaves and my ears ring, but I can’t tear my eyes away. I can’t even close them, I realize as tears burn in their corners.

“Becca,” Jack yells, yanking me backward.

It breaks the spell. I roll onto my knees and dry heave.

“What happened?”

I drag my hand across my mouth and fall back onto my heels, defeated. No matter what arguments I’ve made, Trevor is right. I need to be here. The Society needs me just as much as it needed my dad.

“There’s a dead body in that tree.”

Jack turns to look, even though we both know he won’t see it. Trevor gets to see the monsters, I get to see their victims.

I can never decide which one of us has it worse.

Weekend Words #11

weekend words picWeekend Words showcases inspiring quotes from books, about writing, and about life. This feature will happen every weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on my schedule.  Everyone should feel free to take part–it would honestly make my day! Complete instructions can be found on the feature’s page. 

I’m back! Just like in my 2016 goals post, I’m starting Weekend Words again! I hope you like these quotes (maybe even decide to join in on the feature…? :)) and that you’re having a great weekend!

1. A Powerful Quote From a Recent Read

take these verbs

“Ski. Sled. Play basketball. Jog. Run. Run. Run. Run home. Run home and enjoy. Enjoy. Take these verbs and enjoy them..” — Nez Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

IKOAFS is a book that’s been on my mind a lot this week, ever since I finished it. This quote, some of the last words of the book, inspire me to live my life, not just survive it.

2. A Quote that Inspired or Influenced Me This Week

new years resolution

“Let our New Year’s Resolution be this: We will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.” — Goran Persson

Since it’s the first week of the New Year, I thought that a quote dealing with New Years Resolutions would be apropos. I love the solemn note of this quote, and the fact that it is definitely achievable for everyone this year.

3. Something I’ve Been Wanting to Say

What with school starting up again, I’ve been hit with a feeling like the new year changed nothing, making me forget all the good times I had over the holidays—and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was happening to anyone else. I hope everyone has a great new year, and that we’re able to remember the little things that make us happy, even if the big things in life don’t always. 


I hope you’re all having a great weekend! What quotes have inspired you recently?

Book Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

An incredible window into the mind of a depressed teenager that tackled serious subject manner with a careful hand, creating an unforgettable story.

5/5 stars

cover its kind of a funny story

Plot (via Goodreads)

Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.

My Review

I don’t usually read books that deal with mental illness. I’ve read a few—contemporary and fantasy—but few of them “worked” for me, for various reasons.

This book was different.

I didn’t pick up IKOAFS on my own. A friend of mine wrote an incredibly touching review of it for my journalism class and I was the editor that handled it. I’d never seen the book before, but after reading about how important this book was for my friend (who struggles with depression like the MC, Craig), I asked if I could borrow it. Once I started reading it, I read it in two sittings.

This book is raw and powerful. Craig, the protagonist, suffers from depression, and the story (told in first person) vividly portrays the mental state Craig was in. I’ve talked to friends who suffer from depression, so I already felt like I knew some of what Craig would be going through, but being inside his head gave me an incredible insight into his thought process as he battled depression.

I enjoyed Craig’s character. In the beginning, I was afraid that he was going to be a carbon copy of the Perks of Being a Wallflower MC, but as the story progressed, Craig developed unique characteristics and blossomed into a complex and realistic character. His voice conveys the truth of who he is: a teenage boy trapped in a war with his mind, struggling to not be defined by it. Indeed, Craig’s voice—humorous and self-deprecating, frustrated and hopeful—was the most powerful and realistic part of the book.

I loved the rest of the characters as well. The other patients in the psychiatric hospital were some of my favorite characters in the entire book, lending subtle (or sometimes not-no-subtle) humor to the story. Each one of them got their own clear personality, even if that personality was a quirk of their particular mental illness. The subtle romance that developed throughout the plot was perfect; it added another layer to the plot without taking away from the overall message of personal growth.

Craig’s family and friends were clearly imperfect, and some of their actions pissed me off, but I never hated any of them completely. They were human, and the plot showed both good and bad qualities of each character. In this way, I was able to forgive them (instead of continuing to hate them even after the MC has forgiven them, as usually happens to me in books like this).

The plot of IKOAFS is simple and moderately paced. There are no ohmygod cliffhanger moments, but I was happy about that. They would have seemed gimmicky in what was (without them) a story that struck me as intensely realistic. The meat of the story comes from Craig’s ups and downs as he comes to terms with and tries to overcome his depression.

IKOAFS is a story with a lot of messages, about life, love, mental illness, high school. Thankfully, it never came off as preachy, with the themes subtly woven into the plot so that the reader discovered them for themselves instead of being hit over the head with them.

Though IKOAFS deals most centrally with depression, I think this is a book everyone can relate to in part. Craig got into the prestigious high school of his dreams, but then his depression hit at the beginning of freshman year. Suddenly unable to compete with his peers, Craig struggles with intense feelings of inadequacy and being overwhelmed by the multi-faceted expectations of high school today. This part of the story touched me deeply, and I doubt there is a high school or college student out there who wouldn’t connect with Craig’s panic, at least a little.

IKOAFS never made me feel depressed, even though I was in Craig’s head. Somehow his voice, plus the humorous moments in the plot and the optimism of other characters, was able to keep this book from dragging me down. It sounds insensitive, but I was hesitant to read this book because I was afraid of it putting thoughts I didn’t want in my head. And yes, Craig has suicidal thoughts. Craig is undeniably depressed and the reader is privy to his feelings.

But the book is ultimately positive. There is no perfect or cheesy fix-all ending, and the humor never feels insensitive or out-of-touch. IKOAFS is exactly that—kind of a funny story, with a serious focus and message. It is definitely worth reading, whether you suffer from depression or not. It’s the kind of story that breeds compassion, and if that isn’t the kind of book that the world needs regarding these issues, I don’t know what is.


I couldn’t write this review without extending my horror and sadness at the news that Ned Vizzini committed suicide in 2013. This book came out his own time in a psychiatric ward, giving hope and a promise of survival to those suffering from depression and to those around them. There aren’t words for the knowledge that Vizzini didn’t get the hopeful ending that he gave Craig. He left behind an incredible piece of literature that can hopefully help others through depression.

The Dragon’s Loyalty Award

dragon loyalty award

I was nominated for this award by the amazing Syc @ The Lit Mermaid. It was a long time ago and I can’t believe that it took me this long to get around to posting this (I’m the worst with awards). Seriously, check our Syc’s blog—she has amazing graphics and is a super nice blogger! Thanks so much for the award, Syc!!!

The Rules

  1. Display the award on your blog.
  2. Announce your win with a post and link the blogger who awarded you.
  3. Present 6 4 deserving bloggers with the award.
  4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded.
  5. Write seven interesting things about you.

Seven Facts About Me

Can I start off by saying that I LOVE the name of this award? I feel so legit writing out the name.

  1. I’ve never played a team sport, though I have taken gymnastics and diving lessons (the latter for a much shorter duration). I currently fence.
  2. I’m in AP Calculus, and I actually enjoy math classes, but I have less than no intention of pursuing math as a career.
  3. Even though I recently turned seventeen, I just started driving. I could have gotten my permit a year and a half ago, but I dragged my feet.
  4. Through my school’s journalism program and making graphics for this blog, I’ve started to really love graphic design. I find it a surprisingly relaxing hobby for something that is routinely so tedious.
  5. I am a cat person! My cat is named Muzgle and I love her soooo freaking much.
  6. I love rereading books! Most of the books on my “Top Shelf” have been read at least three (but probably four) times—and I have no intention of stopping.
  7. I’m a twin! A lot of you know this by now, but my twin is a really talented sewer sewist (she prefers that word, cuz, you know, it isn’t connected to sewage). Check out her blog here.

My Nominees

  1. The Galaxial Word
  2. Jess @ Princessica of Books
  3. Nikki and Amy @ Every Book You Need to Read and More
  4. Kat @ Life and Other Disasters

Congratulations to everyone! And thank you again, Syc, for nominating me!

Blogging and Bookish Resolutions for 2016

Hey everyone! As we begin a new year of reading and blogging, I thought that it would be a good time to write down some goals I have for improving this blog next year.

1. Post three times a week. 

I was doing pretty well for this before the last two months. Hopefully these three posts would be a review, a discussion/meme, and something writing based.

2. Read 75 books. 

I read 74 books this year. Stretching my goal to 75 might be an awful idea–next year is going to be crazy stressful–but I think I can do it.

3. Use better graphics consistently.

I have Photoshop, and I honestly love working with it, but I often get lazy when I’m writing posts and go with simpler graphics than I could make. This year, I want to stop this habit and really develop the graphic design part of this blog.

4. More discussion posts!

Discussion posts are definitely the hardest posts to write because they take time, effort, and thought. However, I wrote a few discussion posts last year that I was really proud of and I got a lot of positive feedback, so I want to continue to deliver discussion-based content. Going with #1, I also want to work in better graphics to my discussions.

5. Write reviews directly after I finish a book.

Right now, I have a horrible habit of waiting anywhere from one to two weeks after reading a book to sit down and write the review. GAH I know it’s awful and I need to kick this habit.

6. Interact more with the blogging community!

I want to start commenting back, following more blogs, and really developing friendships with members of the blogging community. I also want to build my Twitter following and interact with more of you guys on Twitter.

7. Start doing read-a-thons. 

This goes with #4, but I want to start doing RATs to get to know more of you better. I haven’t done them in the past because of school, but I want to get over the fear of not being able to read a ton of books and join RATs anyway.

8. Get back to Weekend Words. 

This is an original feature of my blog that I started about halfway through the year. I’ve only been doing it off-and-on (and mostly off recently), but I love the feature that I came up with and I just need to remind myself to actually DO IT.

9. Increase the writing focus of 52 Letters.

I want to get back to sharing short stories and poems with you guys. I also want to branch out into writing-based discussions and share with you my experiences with my WIP.

10. Have fun.

This one goes without saying, but I want to make sure that I’m blogging because I enjoy it, not because I feel like I need to. I doubt that this will really be a problem, but you never know.


And that’s it! Ten seems like a good number.

What are your goals and resolutions for 2016? Do we share any?